By Chris Harris
If you're a fan of reunions, Emirates Stadium is the place to be on Saturday. Portsmouth are in town and some familiar faces will be stepping off their team coach: Sol Campbell, Kanu and the man they used to call Mr Arsenal - Tony Adams.
The former England captain only has eyes for Pompey now but his CV includes titles in three different decades with Arsenal. Adams can expect a rapturous reception from the fans he used to parade those trophies in front of.
Harry Redknapp knows a thing or two about going back to old haunts. He was the lead character in football's south-coast soap opera, leaving Pompey for their bitter rivals Southampton before returning to Fratton Park - all in the space of 13 months.
Understandably, Redknapp was given the cold shoulder by the Pompey faithful on his return. It's a different story now. A run of just seven defeats in 27 games saved Pompey from relegation last term, propelled them to fourth this season and made Harry a hero again.
We spoke to Jordan Cross of the Portsmouth News to get the lowdown on Arsenal's next opponents ahead of Saturday's game. Read on to find out why Pompey are so resurgent, why David James should be in the England squad and why Redknapp will not go for broke at Emirates Stadium.
THE STORY SO FAR
"I think everyone is a tad surprised at the pace of Portsmouth's turnaround. Harry's role when he came back was to keep the club in the Premiership and then build them into a mid-table team. Just to be away from the bottom three would have been a major success, so to see them fourth in the table is a surprise to everyone and not least Harry. He did his transfer business in the summer and securing Sol Campbell was the key. It was a shock that he became available and Harry made him a priority. Campbell and David James have become the backbone of the side and Pompey have hit the ground running this season. Confidence has soared, the players are buzzing, they are enjoying the training and learning from the likes of Campbell and Kanu. Pompey's away form has been pretty abysmal in the Premiership in past years but they are picking up points on their travels now and that is a big factor in their early-season success."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"There was a turning point last season when the fans began to sing his name. They refused to do that at first when he returned from Southampton but when Pompey went to Wigan and secured their place in the Premiership it was a redemption for Harry. He went out and received their acclaim, everyone was going crazy, he was getting mobbed by the fans - it was part of the Pompey soap opera. Harry has been shrewd in the transfer market, he has solidified the team. It's a new-look side and the only two faces remaining from Redknapp's first spell are Gary O'Neil and Linvoy Primus."
"Of all the new signings David James has been the most impressive. That's quite a statement because Kanu is the Premiership's top scorer and Sol Campbell has been a rock. James has kept Pompey in games and why he is not involved in the England set-up amazes me. Harry has the ability to attract big names who perhaps need a fresh start or have a point to prove. [Redknapp's predecessor as manager] Alain Perrin didn't have that ability but Harry does and that has been a major factor in Pompey's turnaround."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"Harry will always distance himself from talk of Europe - he is a master at taking pressure off his players. Harry is saying that a top 10 place would be great and 'let's stay realistic', but a top six place will be the ambition and they will be secretly gunning for one of those positions."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"Pompey have lost their games against the top clubs. I would put that down to the fact that Harry targets games which are 'winnable' for Pompey. He says that games at Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are bonus games, free games and Pompey go to those places with no expectation. He is probably already looking at the Sheffield United game as one to take points from, and maybe that transmits itself to the players too."
"Harry will go with a 4-5-1 formation, first and foremost because he has a lack of strikers available. Andy Cole is coming back from an Achilles injury, Lomano LuaLua is out until the New Year, Benjani has got an injury, even Kanu only trained lightly yesterday but he is likely to play as a lone striker. Pompey will sling five across the midfield and try and get into Arsenal. They barely had a shot at Liverpool but were dogged and got a point."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Tony Adams has been very coy, he doesn't want it to be all about him going back. It will be an emotional occasion for him. Sol Campbell is looking forward to it and he's hopeful of getting a good reception. He was talking about the comparison between success at Arsenal and what is possible at Pompey. Comparatively, getting into Europe with Pompey would be a great achievement although he has said nothing would touch what he achieved at Arsenal."
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